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An American Muslim couple’s inspiring interfaith initiative

An American Muslim couple received appreciation from the American media this month. Dr. Rafat Ansari, an oncologist and Dr. Zoreen Ansari, a family medicine physician, made an extraordinary gift of $ 15 million to Notre Dame University – one of the largest Catholic institutions of higher learning in the United States.

The money will be devoted to establishing an institute, which, according to the University, would bring some of the leading faith scholars to study religions. It will be named appropriately as the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion.

The gift by the two Pakistani-American doctors – who came to the United States about four decades ago and achieved the American Dream – and the establishment of the Institute hold tremendous significance for America’s multicultural society, and its social fabric.

We need more of such initiatives by American Muslims, who have achieved the American Dream, especially in view of the recent divisive political rhetoric and incidents of violence and vandalism against Muslims and Jews. In addition, America’s diverse communities, including ,Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims are perturbed by some of the incidents. They have the support of a vast majority of mainstream Americans of all political leanings, who believe in assimilation and equal rights for all American communities.

Dr. Rafat Ansari and Dr Zoreen Ansari, Photo: Courtesy Notre Dame University

This act of kindness by the Ansaris will go a long way to create a real harmony among various ethnic groups.

The convergence of faith scholars from around the world envisioned under this exceptional gift will provide a massive opportunity to promote interfaith understanding – a pressing need of the day.

There is no better place to start a constructive interfaith discourse than the world renowned Notre Dame University because of obvious historical and current demographic reasons.

Few countries have had greater diversity of communities than the United States. Immigrants from around the world have come to America and contributed to its success and Muslims are no exception, as is evident from the Ansari family’s example.

Simultaneously, the Ansaris’ expression of gratitude for the  opportunity America provided to them is also a supremely important statement, as they represent sentiments of the overwhelming majority of Muslims in America.

“We came as immigrants, and this country has given us so much,” Zoreen Ansari said.

“We want to give something back to America, but also to humanity. We want to promote the idea of equality,” she added.

The two doctors are not the only American Muslims serving the humanity not only with their professional work but also through acts of sharing and caring.

Like the Ansaris, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Muslims from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa have realized the American dream. Their work in their respective areas of expertise contributes to the intellectual development of America, its economy and national security.

By donating the large sum of money, the Ansaris have upheld the Islamic tradition of showing love for their new homeland and humanity at large. Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, told his followers to live in peace in their communities and show love and care for the people where they live.

The Ansaris’ example of dedication to a cause of common good is surely a tremendous inspiration for young Muslims in America.

At the national level, the Institute would help efforts towards a greater mutual understanding and respect among Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars and through them among followers of the Abrahamic faiths, at home and abroad as well.